Richelle K. Smith ’21MSW Uplifts and Connects with Students at TechBoston Academy
I want students to feel like there’s a safe space where they can unpack what’s on their minds or reflect.
What the job entails
Richelle is a clinical social worker at TechBoston Academy, a pilot school for grades six through twelve in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. Overseeing the wide-ranging needs of students in the mainstream education program, she provides counseling to 10 students, facilitates group therapy, handles crisis intervention, and coordinates referrals to outside agencies and resources. “I want students to feel like there’s a safe space where they can unpack what’s on their minds or reflect,” says Richelle. She will also develop innovative programming that strengthens connections with parents and the community in this newly created role.
What brought her to Simmons
A career changer with a business background, Richelle attended a School of Social Work open house. “I instantly felt connected,” she remembers. “There were Black professors, a diverse student body. I wasn’t the only Black person in the room.” She also appreciated the school’s reputation for rigor and excellence. “Simmons was the total package for me,” she says. “I left there thinking, 'This is where I need to be.'”
Simmons was the total package for me.
How Simmons prepared her
Richelle praises Simmons for developing her clinical and leadership skills but also for “immersing us in self-exploration,” she says. Her first placement was with the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO), one of the longest-running voluntary school-integration programs in the country. Working with Arlington Public Schools, she counseled METCO students experiencing anxiety, trauma, social isolation, and depression and supporting students’ academic needs.
In her second year, Richelle was accepted into the federally funded Simmons Integrated Mental Health Primary Care and Clinical Training (SIMPACT) program. As part of this initiative, she interned at TechBoston Academy, where she provided individual and group counseling to students and designed and led therapeutic groups on social and emotional skills. At Simmons, she gained additional experience as a Dean’s Fellow for Community Engagement and Social Justice. “I’ve never had so much opportunity to learn about who I really am,” says Richelle, who received the SSW’s Community Service Award. “Those opportunities brought me to where I am today.”
Why it’s rewarding
Inspired by her first placement and the loss of her young nephew, Richelle discovered a passion for working with youth while at Simmons. “I enjoy their energy and candidness,” she says. “I vowed to do everything I can to uplift and connect with the youth community.” Her internship at TechBoston Academy led to a full-time offer shortly before graduation. “As a pilot school,” she says, “we can really be creative and work together to support students and families. This is such a unique place.”